It all started on the 2009 Midlands centre welsh rally when a friend of mine said his sister had a complete running Rover 200 going for £100 with the classic head gasket failure. I had toyed with the idea of doing a K series conversion to the Midget for a long time, looking at the Frontline tent at Silverstone year after year. I had already used Frontline for a few modifications including the telescopic suspension setup all round, polyurethane bushes, up rated anti-roll bar and EBC drilled/grooved discs and pads. The K series upgrade had always looked a bit on the expensive side not to mention time consuming and challenging with only a single garage. Cut a long story short, things suddenly fell into place and the whole thing suddenly seemed viable. The Rover 200 came up for grabs around about the same time a colleague at work offered me an engine hoist he didn’t need anymore and I had just changed my everyday car which now had a tow bar. I was also on the verge of leaving the RAF so I knew I had a bit of ‘gardening leave’ coming my way through the summer months!
No sooner had the £100 left my wallet and header tank topped up, I drove the Rover 200 back from Stourport upon Seven to my parent’s house 14 miles down the road in Halesowen, West Midlands. Needless to say, it started to overheat and the header tank was empty by the time I had arrived. I decided at this point that the 110 mile journey back to Lincoln would have meant meltdown for the Rover so a towing dolly was borrowed from a friend and the Rover had the easy life on the back of my VW Golf.
After a little pushing around with the help of my neighbours, the Rover was off the dolly and onto my drive and listed on EBay for spares to try and recoup some of my £100. While it was slowly disappearing as I sold lights, bumpers and bonnet etc, I pulled the head off, had it skimmed and did a top end rebuild employing the new multi-layer head gasket with head saver shim, up-rated oil rail ladder and new through bolts as per Land Rover freelander. It started first turn of the key but the tappets didn’t sound happy so I replaced them before finally taking the engine out when someone bought the radiator from my Rover ‘test bed’ so I couldn’t run it anymore.
With the engine removed, I slowly un-picked the wiring loom from the car taking everything out including the ECU, then removing the dashboard, took out the dash loom including 5AS immobiliser box right back to the ignition barrel and key!
Finally, after removing anything and everything I could think I might need from the Rover, I took it to the scrap yard to weigh in. To my delight, I got £97 not to mention the £150 from spares including the old transverse gearbox and complete exhaust system. At this point, I was about £90 up even after the engine rebuild, bargain!
Next to go was the original 1500 engine and box sat it the Midget. I was lucky to sell it within 24 hours of advertising it on the MG BBS website. A chap from Litchfield bought the job lot including exhaust, alternator, starter motor etc as it was all surplus to requirement with the ‘K’ going in. I quickly removed the engine, delivered it to Litchfield on the way back to visit the parents and then had more cash in hand (£450) to progress ‘project K’.
At this point, the summer months had had their best and a new career at BAE Systems got in the way of my ‘gardening leave’ progression! When the weather permits, I wheel the car out of the garage and do what I can. I have removed all the unnecessary bits from the ‘K’ including power steering pump, transverse engine mount, oil filter bracket and cooling system pipes as none of them will allow the fit to work unless modified or replaced with special items. The engine mounts are from Frontline and fit where the power steering pump once was and to what looks like a jig point on the back of the block. The mounts then sit down on the chassis legs and hold the engine at a 13 degree angle (subject to build standard of the car). Having dropped the ‘K’ in for the first time it is fair to say that it won’t be plain sailing! As the pictures below show, the ‘K’ fouls just about anywhere it can. The right hand gearbox mount is against the drivers foot well, the other side mount is on the left hand chassis leg and the front engine mount isn’t exactly well placed on the right hand chassis leg.
Next up on the list to progress with the project was a bellhousing. Frontline and Caterham produce these to mate a K series to the Ford type 9 gearbox. Whilst researching which company to go with I had heard of another company called Titan motorsport. Cut a long story short they did the same product including a starter motor spacer and clutch fixing kit for considerably less cash! Needless to say (and before VAT went back up) I ordered the bellhousing just before Christmas as an early present to myself with a view to getting on with it over the Christmas period. No such luck, snow called off play and all I managed to do with the one reasonable day was remove the engine, ‘reshape’ the engine bay a bit and offer the bellhousing up to see how it looks. Over the festive period I did a bit of ‘Ebaying’ and sourced a few more spares including a 190mm Capri clutch kit to fit the bellhousing and a Sierra gearstick. As luck would have it, Santa (my wife) brought me a remote oil feed take off adaptor kit, lines and remote filter housing so the parts ‘wish list’ is getting shorter!
With the short lived world cup tournament out the way, the engine side of the project has come second to the bodywork.
As it is a 1500 body, the first step to better performance was to lose that weight penalty that is the rubber bumpers! At the front this was fairly straight forward as I acquired a pair of 1275 fibre glass front wings and a grille. Once I had cut back the bumper mounts then eradicated the good old tin worm from the chassis legs, radiator ducting and replaced the valance, I got to work on the slightly more challenging rear. This involved cutting the large ‘buttress style’ mounts out, shortening the box sections behind them and adding the ‘boat back’ profiles below the rear lights. Whilst I was at it, I removed the reversing lights too in a bid for the ‘smooth’ look. After some welding, grinding, filling, sanding and some more filling, the bodywork is just about complete.
(ed) Great stuff from Steve, many thanks and we eagerly await a conclusion
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